On this day in 1995, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy family, died at home in Hyannisport at age 104.
The eldest child of John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a Boston mayor who also served in Congress, Rose Fitzgerald married Joseph P. Kennedy in 1914. The marriage produced nine children, including a president, two war heroes, three US Senators, the founder of the Special Olympics and an ambassador to Ireland.
Mrs. Kennedy had been in declining health for a decade before her death after suffering a stroke in 1984. She was preceded in death by four of her children - Joseph Jr., a naval pilot killed in World War II; John and Robert, assassinated during the 1960s; and Kathleen, who died in a plane crash in France in 1948.
"Rose Kennedy saw her family rise from the insular and provincial Irish wards of Boston to enormous wealth and a place in the highest councils of world affairs," wrote J.Y. Smith of The Washington Post in reporting Kennedy's death. "Great as the family's successes were, they were equaled by its tragedies and failures. The family's story has become one of the great epics of the age."
To Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan, "Rose was the Honey Fitz side and the sunny side. The warmth, culture, poetry and music came from her, not the single-minded hard-charger to whom money and power and winning were all. Look around today and you'd have to suspect old Joe Kennedy would be on the other side from Teddy and Joe the congressman and Patrick and the others."
After her funeral at St. Stephen's in the North End, the same church where she was baptized, Mrs. Kennedy was buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline alongside her husband.
The NY York headline screamed:
10 HOURS IN RIGGING, SAVED FROM WRECK; Captain's Wife and 14 Men Lashed to Crosstrees While Big Schooner Breaks in Two.
RESCUERS FACE WILD SEA Go Out In Fishing Smack -- Wrecked Crowley Mistook Lights Off Martha's Vineyard and Struck Reef.
EDGARTOWN, Mass., Jan. 23, 1910. -- The schooner Mertie B. Crowley, one of the few six-masters flying the American flag, lies to-night a total wreck on the reefs three miles off the southeast end of Martha's Vineyard Island. Already the Crowley has broken in two, and great seas are fast smashing her stout timbers... Below is a postcard of its launch. NY Times.
And the main hero in the story was a bow-legged, steely-eyed Edgartown seaman named Levy Jackson, who did what the Coast Guard and other would-be rescuers could not. With a small crew of four, Captain Jackson steered his 32-foot fishing sloop Priscilla through treacherous swells to rescue Capt. William Haskell, his wife and 13 crewmen who had lashed themselves to the rigging of the rapidly sinking 296-foot six-masted schooner.
The family names of the five heroes on board the Priscilla that day are still well known on the Island: Jackson, Kelly, Doucette and Benefit. The men were later awarded a Carnegie bronze medal...
In its 50th anniversary recollection the Gazette wrote:
"The story of the saving of the lives of Capt. William H. Haskell, his wife and crew of thirteen is one of the most thrilling tales in the history of sea heroism along the section of the Atlantic coast.
Because it is remarkable, that no one was lost, no one injured, and there was little suffering, it is probable the story will not attract the attention that usually accompanies a tale of heroism at sea, but for all that it is a most touching story of the way in which five brave men went out for battle with the seas, and seven hours later returned with one woman and fourteen men all taken out of the rigging of a vessel pounding to pieces on the reef on the south side of the Island"... Vineyard Gazette.